Cold exposure therapy is an increasingly popular type of therapy for all sorts of mental and physical health conditions. Research suggests that it can boost circulation, improve immune responses, reduce insomnia, and improve stress regulation and decrease anxiety. Many new patients feel a little intimidated by the idea of cold therapy. However, knowing what to expect can be very reassuring. Here is what you need to know about preparing for cold exposure.
Understand Why You’re Trying Cold Therapy
Though this type of therapy might seem physical, there is also a huge mental component. Patients are more willing to try and stick with the therapy if they understand the full effects of cold therapy.
On a basic level, cold exposure is helpful because it changes how your body functions. When exposed to extreme cold, your body temporarily goes into a “survival mode” that involves pulling fresh oxygen deep into the muscles, producing hormones associated with energy and alertness, and creating additional immune cells. Studies indicate that cold therapy benefits can help patients dealing with issues such as:
Check With Your Doctor Before Trying
Keep in mind that cold exposure is not for everyone. It might not be recommended if you have heart or blood pressure issues. Sudden exposure to cold can stress your cardiovascular system. Some conditions, like diabetic neuropathy, can also cause a poor response to cold exposure. Of course, any reputable hydrotherapy clinic will thoroughly assess your health before recommending this therapy. You can also discuss the treatment with your doctor for additional input.
Take Cool Showers to Get Used to the Sensation
If you are used to being toasty warm, cold immersion therapy can be a huge shock. Most cold exposure providers recommend that patients take at least a few cool showers in the days leading up to cold exposure therapy. You don’t have to freeze yourself at home, but just stepping into slightly cool water can help your body acclimate to cold exposure.
Some patients even like to take it a step further and try home hydrotherapy. This consists of taking a bath in cold water with ice cubes. Home cold exposure can be a useful way to prepare in a familiar environment, but just remember to stay safe, always have someone to monitor you, and stick to sessions of less than 10 minutes.
Practice Calming Breathing Techniques
During the typical cold exposure session, you can expect to sit in a tank of ice-cold water while a therapist monitors your progression and helps you manage the intense cold. Many people find it helpful to start practicing cold management techniques early on for best results. The most important thing during cold therapy is simply to keep breathing. Many people instinctively hold their breath, but slow, regular breathing will help you feel more comfortable and make it easier to stay calm.
Breathing exercises are something you can start doing at home at any time. There are a lot of different techniques, but many people like the simplicity of “square breathing” which involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding a breath for 4 seconds, exhaling for 4 seconds, and waiting for 4 seconds. If breathing exercises are already second-nature to you by the time you get cold exposure, it’s much easier to keep breathing in the water.
Find the Right Outfit to Wear
The clinic you work with will guide you on what to wear to your session. Some encourage patients to bring a swimsuit, athletic gear, or other clothes they’re comfortable getting wet. However, other therapy clinics may provide a robe and ask you to disrobe during the treatment. Certain parts of the body are more sensitive to cold than others. Most clinics will provide you with protective gear, but you may want to bring your own:
- Ear muffs
- Face mask
Now that you know all about preparing for cold exposure therapy, it’s time to experience cold therapy benefits for yourself. At Sabino Recovery, we specialize in holistic treatments like cold immersion therapy. To learn more about our treatment options, contact our team today.